Stripped by Tori St. Claire
Erotic Romantic Suspense
January 3, 2011
Reviewed by Mandi
When Tori St. Claire contacted me to request a review of Stripped, I honestly wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. I believe this is the first book for St. Claire, although she also is published under the name Claire Ashgrove. The blurb sounded a little over the top — but I was kind of in the mood for that. And, I have to say, this book turned out to be very good.
The actual story is maybe not over the top, but there are a lot of things going on. I’ll just briefly set up the story and let you discover all the connections and intricacies between the characters for yourself.
Natalya Trubachev is a member of the Black Opals, a very secretive, undocumented department of the CIA. She has been deep undercover for the past three years as Dmitri Gavrikov’s girlfriend, now fiancée. Dmitri is the head guy in the Russian Mafia. His specialty is drugs, black-market firearms and human trafficking — the reason Natalya is involved. He selects beautiful women to kidnap, drug and sell to people in Dubai. Since Natalya is acting as his fiancée, she has become part of the operation, and her job entails injecting heroin into the girls after they come to trust her and then ship them off for a life of sexual torture. Natalya has learned that she can’t save these girls, but if she eventually can bring down Dmitri, she can save so many more lives that would have been affected.
Dmitri has people working in Las Vegas for him as well, kidnapping high-class strippers and sending them his way. But his contact over there, a man known as Iskatel, has been screwing up – giving a lot of the girls too much heroin, causing overdoses. Dmitri wants Natalya to fly to the States to straighten Iskatel out and show him the right way to do things.
Natalya goes to Vegas as a pretend stripper working at Fantasia, with a meeting with Iskatel set up in the next few days. But after she gets there, she discovers that her fraternal twin sister, who dances at Fantasia, is next on the list to become a sex slave.
Brandon Moretti is a cop, working undercover as the manager of Fantasia. He is there to investigate a string of murders and missing strippers (the strippers Iskatel is drugging and kidnapping). Brandon has no idea that these strippers are ultimately being sold as sex slaves.
Stripped is not only a suspenseful story, but it’s a very erotic one as well. The chemistry and sexual tension between Brandon and Natalya are so intense. They both are undercover, working toward the same goal, although they don’t really realize it, and so they know they shouldn’t get involved with each other. But the sexual tension becomes so thick and prominent, that there is no way they can just walk away from each other. Tori St. Claire does a really good job building the sexual tension and delivering on the love scenes.
The plot is well done, too. The many twists and connections these characters have with each other made it very intriguing. Natalya is a tough, strong heroine, and everything felt so real. Natalya is literally shipping women off to Dubai because she knows she has to stay undercover and she knows Dmitri kills people with a snap of his fingers. Violence has become her way of life, and deep down she can’t wait for it all to be over. But she also knows she has a job to do. We see her more vulnerable side when she doesn’t want to give up a chance with Brandon. But other than that, she is hardened and tough. She is a very cool, strong heroine whom I think everyone will like.
I had no idea who the ultimate villain was until it is revealed. I do think once Natayla lands in Vegas, the story slows down a little bit. I missed Dmitri and the threat of never knowing when violence was going to pop up. But it eventually comes back and leads to a nice ending.
A well-done, erotic, suspenseful book, and I’m so happy to hear there will be another Black Opals story next summer.
Note: This review first appeared at Happy Ever After.